Tag Archives: pinkwashing

NYC Dykes to Israel: Meh

Israel, I’ll be blunt, NYC dykes are just not that into you.

I’ve been on a bit of a dating whirlwind these last months, which basically means I’ve had an inordinate number of rendezvous in cafés and wine bars with women I met in cyber or real space. Obviously, this is a self-selecting group of women who are generally progressive and, presumably, find me easy enough on the eyes to want to sit across a table from me and talk over a libation.

So yes, this is entirely anecdotal and unscientific. Nonetheless, having been active since I am a teen in Palestine solidarity organizing, I am accustomed to Palestine being at the very least contentious and at most a relationship third rail among the left-of-center women I’ve dated over the years. No longer.

Though I’m Jewish myself, until lately I hadn’t dated a Jewish woman since my socialist girlfriend in college in the mid-80s—who through some accident of history actually lives up the block from me now (with her husband and kids). Go figure.

Since like everyone else I’m rather busy, I’ve adopted a full disclosure policy when it comes to dating women whom I know ahead of time are Jewish. I let them know of my pro-Palestine sympathies making it clear that if this is an issue for them we shouldn’t bother meeting up since we’d despise each other.

Of the nearly two dozen Jewish women with whom I’ve corresponded for dates, only one took offense. Every single other Jewish dyke either said she found Israel’s actions racist and confusing and was curious to know more or said she totally agreed and found herself siding with Palestinians more and more. Of the non-Jewish women, the curiosity for them was why any queer would ever support the oppression of Palestinians.

This conforms very much to the shifting winds of social consciousness in the US around the question of Israel’s brutal occupation of Palestine. Even the US-based Israel Project poll noted that in 2009, after the first massacre of Gaza and imposition of the siege, support for Israel among US voters plummeted from 69 to 49 percent. Their pollster Stanley Greenberg concluded, “The section of the American public where Israel is most rapidly losing support is among liberal Americans who align themselves with the Democratic Party.” Zogby and other polls since confirm this trajectory.

Next week, the Center for Gay and Lesbian Studies at CUNY is hosting a conference on Homonationalism and Pinkwashing that is largely the brainchild of Jewish lesbian novelist and Palestine solidarity activist Sarah Schulman. The conference has been sold out for months, not at all common for academic conferences, and certainly not ones exploring sexuality through the lens of imperialism, racism and internationalism, with several talks on the question of Israel/Palestine. It is a radical departure from the navel-gazing that too often consumes queer political discourse, in my opinion.

It seems that in addition to the easy accessibility of alternative news analysis on Israel/Palestine via the Internet, the efforts of the rising boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement are having a transformative impact, rendering Palestine solidarity mainstream. Disgust with Israel and US policies that are complicit in its crimes are on the rise and it’s beginning to reverberate throughout US society.

It’s even reached the dykes on OK Cupid.

Catch my talk Wednesday, April 3, at Pratt on sexual liberation :

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Israel’s Chutzpah: Using a Black Icon to Sell Apartheid

Hucksters for Israel attempt to make up for in chutzpah what they lack in facts.

On opening night of the eighth annual Israeli Apartheid Week at NYU — at an event featuring Omar Barghouti and Noura Erakat, leading Palestinian figures in the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign — apologists for Israel’s crimes showcased one of their more curious myths. Defenders of Israel repeatedly argued in the Q & A section that America’s foremost Black icon, Martin Luther King Jr., was an arch defender of the Jewish state.

Let’s explore the evidence.

Pro-Israel Web sites, politicians and campus activists often reference the source of their claim about MLK’s defense of Israel by citing King’s “Letter to an Anti-Zionist Friend,” supposedly published in an August 1967 edition of  the Saturday Review. Here’s the quote they cite:

“… You declare, my friend; that you do not hate the Jews, you are merely ‘anti-Zionist’ … And I say, let the truth ring forth from the high mountain tops, let it echo through the valleys of God’s green earth: When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews… Anti-Semitism, the hatred of the Jewish people, has been and remains a blot on the soul of mankind. In this we are in full agreement. So know also this: anti-Zionist is inherently anti-Semitic, and ever will be so.”

This quote even made its way into an excellent exposé of Israel’s deadly decades-long relationship with apartheid South Africa, Sasha Polakow-Suransky’s  The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa. In fact, I repeated part of the quote in my own review of the book, much to my regret. Later I discovered that the MLK letter was a hoax.

Antiracist activist Tim Wise published an article on Znet in 2003, “Fraud Fit for a King,”  in which he documents the fact that no such letter appears in any of the 1967 issues of the Saturday Review.

The alternative source provided by Zionists for this apparently nonexistent letter is a nonexistent book by King, This I Believe: Selections from the Writings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. According to the authors of Electronic Intifada’s 2004 piece that further details this bamboozle, “Israel’s Apologists and the Martin Luther King Hoax”: “No such book was listed in the bibliography provided by the King Center in Atlanta, nor in the catalogs of several large public and university libraries.”

Electronic Intifada goes on to discredit another “patchwork of plagiarism” attributed to King, this one by Dr. Andrew Bostom, a Brown University medical professor who wrote an article for Front Page Magazine in 2003 citing yet another fictitious quotation from King.

In fact the only credible statements made by King regarding Israel are recounted as hearsay in the San Francisco Chronicle by former civil rights activist, Congressman John Lewis. Lewis, who was friends with King, writes  in his 2002 op-ed that a few days before MLK’s assassination in 1968 King defended Israel at an appearance at Harvard, saying, “I solemnly pledge to do my utmost to uphold the fair name of the Jews — because bigotry in any form is an affront to us all.”

Here again, stubborn facts get in the way. As the Harvard Crimson reported in April 1968,  “The Rev. Martin Luther King was last in Cambridge almost exactly a year ago — April 23, 1967.”

Setting aside the pesky historical record of fabricated quotes from imaginary speeches and phantom texts, what if MLK really did support Israel back in 1968?

What if at a dinner in Cambridge, as has been suggested, King did defend Israel  decades before the first and second intifadas, before the 1982 massacre at Sabra and Shatilla, before the construction of hundreds of miles of apartheid walls with militarized checkpoints, before Israel’s soldiers who killed 1,400 Palestinians in Operation Cast Lead were even born, before the murder of 9 unarmed civilians on the humanitarian aid flotilla and before contemporary, irrefutable documentation by human rights organizations of Israel’s racist apartheid practices?

If King did say or write anything to the effect that Lewis recounts, then King — who never claimed to be a Middle East scholar — was ill-informed. What’s more, he not only lived in an era before widespread exposure in the U.S. of Israel’s crimes, but he was organizing in the context of domestic disputes about multiracial, Black and Jewish organizing in the civil rights movement. Might he have had a totally separate question in mind when commenting on Jews and a Jewish state?

Notably, statements attributed to King about the Arab world go unremarked upon by Zionists. For example, this snippet also cited by Congressman Lewis:  “At the same time the great powers have the obligation to recognize that the Arab world is in a state of imposed poverty and backwardness that must threaten peace and harmony.”

Surely the man who called the U.S. “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world” might be referring here to the American Empire, if not its Israeli vassal, as one of the entities imposing “poverty and backwardness” on the Arab world.

And finally, is it conceivable to any but the most blinkered defenders of Israel that MLK, who gave his life fighting inequality, would stand by a nation that has turned 69 percent of its indigenous population into refugees? No one but a craven ideologue for the indefensible would insist that King could cheer on Israel’s system of separation, discrimination and domination.

It appears that defending ethnic cleansing and Israel’s genocidal policies in the wake of Occupy and democratic Arab upheavals is not the cakewalk it once was. The question of justice for the world’s 11.2 million Palestinian people, according to latest census figures, is no longer the third rail of American politics among a growing swath of the population, including greater numbers of Jews. That some apologists have turned to fabricated quotes and pure slander of an icon to justify the unjustifiable is yet another sign that leading Zionists are desperate liars.

After all, they see the writing on the wall. Though Israel openly frets about the growing Palestinian population as a “demographic threat,” the rising numbers of Arab-Americans, Jews and others who are adhering to the spirit of King’s call for civil rights by joining together in the BDS movement are the real demographic threat to apartheid Israel.

I’ll be speaking on Pinkwashing: Israel’s Queer Propaganda War, Friday, March 2, Temple University, Philadelphia, 3PM, Anderson Hall. FREE.

Wally Shawn: My Favorite Bourgeois Marxist

Whether you know it or not, you know Wally Shawn. He’s that funny, round-faced guy in Woody Allen’s Manhattan and a hundred other movies like The Princess Bride, My Dinner with Andre, Clueless and TV shows like The L Word and Gossip Girl.

His signature nasal voice, which elicits peels of laughter even if he’s just reading a menu, brings to life Rex the dinosaur in Toy Story movies, the diminutive boss in The Incredibles and characters in so many other kids’ flicks.

Wally is the quintessence of a great character actor. He can morph into any part and manage to steal a scene with a nod or a look — equally magnificent as a space alien or a Hollywood producer, or perhaps they’re not so dissimilar. He is that rare artist-actor who more famous names pretend to be on chat shows and more pretentious fare like The Actors Studio.

I first met Wally in the audience sitting next to author Arundhati Roy at St. John the Divine cathedral in Manhattan listening to a discussion about the antiwar movement and the elections with Naomi Klein and my editor at the International Socialist Review, Ahmed Shawki, in 2004.

It wasn’t at all surprising to see him there because to watch him in movies and on TV you know immediately that this is not some vacuous Hollywood twit. His humor is too deep and biting, his smile is playfully ironic in that way people who are taking it all in seem to project. He was immediately likable.

I’ve gotten to know Wally over a few late-night conversations at the ISO’s annual Socialism conference in recent years where he’s become a regular attendee, whether he’s speaking or not. Wally’s as avid a participant in discussions on LGBT liberation as he is at the talks on Jackson Pollack or Leninism. Mostly he asks questions, and he appears to absorb the responses as the philosopher-playwright that he, in fact, is.

Last night I saw him read his Obie Award-winning play, The Fever, in a packed small theater whose audience included Howard Zinn’s Voices of a People’s History co-author/producer Anthony Arnove, Capitalism Hits the Fan author Richard Wolff, Zinn’s son Jeff, several leading members of Jewish Voices for Peace and an assortment of New York’s left-wing theater crowd, as well as a good bunch of young Occupiers.

The Fever gripped me in a way few plays do. Not just because Wally manages to   thread Marx’s theory of “commodity fetishism” and musings on guerrilla war tactics into an hour-and-a-half-long Kafkaesque meditation about class privilege and its discontents. But because there’s something mesmerizing about a self-conscious bourgeois reckoning with the contradictions of his life — and the system that makes his lifestyle possible.

Growing up the Manhattan-dwelling scion of The New Yorker editor, William Shawn, Wally is a don of the literary New York bourgeoisie. I’m glad he rejected his intended life’s course as a diplomat after Oxford — Wally would have made a terrible professional equivocator. But then, don’t they all?

Now in his late sixties, Wally occupies a unique position in the world of the 1%’s intelligentsia. Whereas most self-reflection of that caste tends toward the moral imperative of charity, Wally’s performative musings lead us to broader social conclusions. He is a man of privilege whose aim is to question the entire edifice that allows privilege to rule the world, or even exist.

No wonder the New York Times critic Charles Isherwood thought The Fever was a “corrosive exercise in theatrical conscience-baiting.” Incapable of delving beneath moral indignation — the plague of the self-conscious rich — Isherwood refuses to acknowledge the scathing critique of a system, not just the roles of individuals in it.

A systemic critique is far more dangerous to the rich than a personal one — individuals can alter their behaviors, but a system based on inequality can only be uprooted to cut out the pervasive cancer. In essence, that’s what Wally is talking about. And he even throws in nods to MLK as well, with a Why We Can’t Waitesque indictment of the limitations of reforms. Not just their snail’s pace, but the fact that their realization must be the work of the powers that be.

In The Fever, Wally has an interesting insight on Marx, also born the son of a Jewish bourgeois. He notes, Marx became a follower of the poor, not the other way around, as it’s usually perceived. One-percenters flatter themselves by presuming the top must precede the bottom; Wally grasps the essence of Marxism lies in that biblical incantation: The first will be last and the last will be first.

The self-satisfaction of the arts is even taken down a peg. Wally writes that this play will change nothing, that shifting consciousness alone will change nothing. That until ideas take on a material force, they are just ideas. It is a humble acknowledgement that this wonderful play will change nothing at all.

Well, except to remind us how some of the best cultural works can make us feel and think in ways that embolden us to act. And for that Wally Shawn is my favorite bourgeois Marxist.

You can catch Wally’s next NYC performance on Saturday, March 3, 7PM, when he reads from his book Essays on “Why I Call Myself a Socialist.”

I’ll be speaking Thursday, Feb. 16, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 8PM Angell Hall Auditorium of Pinkwashing: Israel’s Queer Propaganda War

Equality’s Racism: Using LGBT Rights to Veil Apartheid

Imagine the magazine Good Housekeeping awarding the Texas Department of Corrections its seal of approval for the cleanliness of its death row — pristine conditions, though the seating’s a bit clunky!

There is something obscene about an organization devoted to equality planning to feature at its national summit a theocratic police state whose existence is founded on the expulsion and ongoing repression of its indigenous population.

Equality Forum, a nonprofit organization whose mission “is to advance national and international lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights through education,” is hosting Israel’s ambassador to the United States as their keynote speaker and featuring Israeli artists at their May conference in Philadelphia. Its celebration of Israel’s purported LGBT civil rights is truly an elaborate expression of totally missing the point.

Even the international human rights expert UN Special Rapporteur Miloon Kothari condemns the policies of the Israeli state that systematically discriminates against its non-Jewish population: “the basic theocratic character of the Israeli legal system establishes ethnic criteria as the grounds for the enjoyment of full rights.” In other words, the oppression of 20 percent of Israel’s population who are Palestinian — LGBT and straight — as well as the dispossession of the millions who are virtually imprisoned behind hundreds of miles of militarized walls in the Occupied Territories, expose the lie of Israel’s supposed democracy.

Despite Israel’s ongoing defiance of international law in the service of its 64-year occupation of Palestine, its institutionalized brutalization and daily humiliation of its native population, Equality Forum is embracing a campaign by Israel’s marketers known as pinkwashing. According to Palestinian LGBT activists, “‘Pinkwashing’ is the appropriation of queer voices in order to shift focus from human rights and international law violations committed by the State of Israel, to an image of Israel as progressive, tolerant and ‘gay-friendly.'”

If Equality Forum goes ahead with this vile charade, they will not only play into the hands of those who wish to cleanse the crimes of Israel by extolling the virtues of having openly gay soldiers crack Palestinian heads, but they will make themselves the target of an international boycott campaign.

I wrote to Equality Forum’s director, Malcolm Lazin, as soon as I read of their selection of Israel as their “featured nation” this year. Mr. Lazin replied by listing Israel’s LGBT reforms, that in reality only fully exist for Jewish LGBT citizens, and he cited Tel Aviv’s status as “Best Gay City of 2011,” according to GayCities.com. He concluded, “Like the U.S. and other nations, Israel has not fully realized its promise of equality to all its citizens. These important issues and others are being debated under freedom of speech, press and assembly in Israel and elsewhere.”

I suppose “not fully realized its promise of equality,” could refer to the “apartheid regime” which “discriminates daily against Israeli Arabs and other minorities,” according to Jewish-Israeli politician, Roman Bronfman. Or it could be interpreted as “a political arrangement that limits democracy to a privileged class that keeps others behind military checkpoints, barbed-wire fences and separation walls,” as former head of the American Jewish Congress, Henry Seligman, puts it.

But that would surely be the most inexplicably polite way of describing a nation which has been under an official “state of emergency” since its founding in 1948. This allows for extra police powers in order to do things like arrest and detain hundreds of children, many as young as 12 years old, for throwing stones at tanks and armed soldiers, according to the Israeli human rights group B’tselem. Israel launches frequent bombing raids into the Gaza Strip, under the pretext of security — attacks punctuated by outright massacres, as in Operation Cast Lead in 2008–09, when more than 1,400 Gazans were murdered; whereas 13 Israelis died, mostly soldiers, 4 from friendly fire.

It is a sad reflection of the primitive consciousness of a swath of the LGBT movement that the Equality Forum would justify highlighting Israel’s LGBT rights despite growing international exposure of that nation’s racist policies, including from LGBT voices within Palestine.

As Palestinian LGBT activist Haneen Maikey explains, “It doesn’t matter what the sexual orientation of the soldier at a checkpoint is, whether he can serve openly or not. What matters is that he’s there at all.” Sami Shamali, also a member of the Palestinian LGBT group, Al Qaws, agreed, “the apartheid wall was not created to keep Palestinian homophobes out of Gay Israel, and there is no magic door for gay Palestinians to pass through.”

A recent delegation of LGBT activists, artists and cultural workers from the United States traveled to Israel-Palestine and published a poignantly detailed eyewitness account of their trip in an open letter. To the great credit of this delegation, they rise above the aggressively narrow viewpoint lauded by Equality Forum, which appears to judge human rights through the lens of sexuality issues alone.

In one sentence they skewer the implicit racism and colonial mindset behind pinkwashing’s attempt to shine a light on LGBT rights in Israel versus the homophobia of some Arab societies. They write, “It is our view that comparisons of this sort are both inaccurate — homophobia and transphobia are to be found throughout Palestinian and Israeli society – and that this is beside the point: Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine cannot be somehow justified or excused by its purportedly tolerant treatment of some sectors of its own population.”

Bravo to the sisters and brothers who penned these words!

In Malcolm Lazin’s e-mail to me, he noted that there is a healthy debate about these policies in Israel and elsewhere. Unfortunately, that’s not true. Equality Forum’s own program, in fact, makes no mention of the devastated lives of Palestinians, queer and straight, and, not surprisingly, there is no Palestinian speaker on the program to expose these harsh truths.

I believe the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to expose and punish Israel’s criminal behavior and demand an end to their apartheid policies, should put out a call to boycott Equality Forum’s conference in May 2012.

More than anything right now, Israel fears “delegitimization,” especially in the eyes of Americans whose government finances the apartheid state to the tune of at least $3 billion every year. Yet Israel’s own actions delegitimize that state in the eyes of anyone with a whiff of social conscience.

It is up to activists — Jewish lesbians like myself, straight gentiles, everyone who cares about social justice — to stand up to Israel’s racist policies and those who help to veil them.

Sherry Wolf, author of Sexuality and Socialism, will be speaking on pinkwashing alongside Palestinian activists at the UPenn BDS conference Saturday, February 4, 2012. Wolf is available as a public speaker on Palestine, sexuality, socialism  and many other issues.

What’s So Gay About Apartheid?

My article below was first published in The Advocate, Aug. 11, 2011.

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A Palestinian youth throws a stone toward soldiers standing on the other side of Israel’s separation barrier following a demonstration on June 3 against settlements.

When a serious scholar like Lillian Faderman argues that LGBT people must stand with Israel in an op-ed for The Advocate where she attacks the growing number of pro-Palestine LGBT activists for our supposed “insane logic or misinformation,” activists must respond.

Faderman argues that because Israel has more progressive legislation regarding LGBT people than other Middle Eastern countries, as well as the United States, we ought to support Israel. What an aggressively narrow vision Faderman advocates for our movement. Just because LGBT Jewish Israelis enjoy some basic reforms is no reason to ignore the racist, colonialist and inhumane policies of that nation.

“Why would we work against such a country?” Faderman asks. How about the facts that Israel has brazenly occupied Palestinian land for decades, in defiance of international law, and denies equal rights to its Arab citizens, 20 percent of the population? Or that Israel periodically bombs the imprisoned 1.5 million people of Gaza, including its LGBT population, and jails, tortures and kills people who try and peacefully challenge Israel’s brutality and apartheid.

If white LGBT people in the United States were to apply Faderman’s logic regarding Israel to our own country, then white queers would never stand alongside our Black and Brown brothers and sisters to advance their civil rights. Hers is not only an argument against solidarity to fight all oppressions, but also for LGBT people to accept racism as a palatable necessity in the extension of our rights. Progressives must reject this reactionary proposition.

Israel is on a campaign to whitewash its crimes against Palestinians with a marketing blitz to promote its pro-LGBT policies, which Palestinian queers call “pinkwashing.” At a San Francisco forum earlier this year, Palestinian LGBT activist Haneen Maikey explained, “It doesn’t matter what the sexual orientation of the soldier at a checkpoint is, whether he can serve openly or not. What matters is that he’s there at all.” Sami Shamali, also a member of the Palestinian LGBT group, Al Qaws, agreed, “the apartheid wall was not created to keep Palestinian homophobes out of Gay Israel, and there is no magic door for gay Palestinians to pass through.”

The institutional racism of the Israeli state is not only in gross violation of international law, but also defies any sense of human decency. B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, recently reported that 93 percent of Palestinian children caught throwing stones at heavily armed Israeli soldiers are jailed, including those under the age of 14.

Longtime Israeli adviser Dov Weisglass justifies the blockade of Gaza that has led to widespread malnutrition as a means to “put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”

It’s not only Palestinians and solidarity activists who view Israel as an apartheid state, but many of its own Jewish politicians and supporters describe it that way. For example, Roman Bronfman, a former member of Israel’s Knesset, argues, “The policy of apartheid has also infiltrated sovereign Israel, and discriminates daily against Israeli Arabs and other minorities.”

The former head of the American Jewish Congress, Henry Siegman, challenges that oft-repeated lie that “Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East”: “A political arrangement that limits democracy to a privileged class and keeps others behind military checkpoints, barbed wire fences and separation walls does not define democracy. It defines its absence.”

In her op-ed, Faderman repeats familiar tropes about the Arab world and homophobia, so often attributed to Islam, without any reference to the legacy of Western colonialism. Virtually all Western societies until recently were antigay, which they spread to their territories; and the three major religions originating in the Middle East—Christianity, Islam and Judaism—have all been interpreted as homophobic throughout the centuries.

In the colonizer countries of the West, industrialism gave rise to a growth of secularism and the explosion of social movements that demanded LGBT equality. In much of the Arab world, these developments were stymied—and continue to be in most countries—by brutal dictatorships in cahoots with the West.

In the case of Egypt, which Faderman explicitly cites for its LGBT repression, the now-deposed dictator, Hosni Mubarak, was a close ally of both the U.S. and Israel. In fact, Israel defended Mubarak to the bitter end.

In Palestine, a largely secular and leftist tradition was smashed, and most of its left leaders were exiled, jailed or killed by Israel. Pointing an accusatory finger at Palestinian leaders’ illiberal stance toward LGBT people today is obscene. To ignore Israel’s dispossession, occupation and immiseration of 10.6 million Palestinians in the world and then expect sexually liberatory ideals to flourish under such a condition is absurd. No population anywhere on Earth has risen to such expectations.

As a result of pressure from a global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, the general assembly meeting of the International Gay and Lesbian Youth Organization was canceled a few weeks ago from its original Israeli site. This is great news and a sign that more and more LGBT activists are rejecting Israel’s pinkwashing in favor of the politics of solidarity. I hope Faderman comes to reject her position and joins us. Either way, the BDS struggle continues.

Israel: Losing Hearts and Minds

Opinion polls in the United States regarding Israel-Palestine are a mixed bag. On the one hand, they reflect the dominant narrative in the West that at turns defends and denies Israel’s racist policies toward Palestinians. On the other, they show disgust with the periodic mass killings of the virtually imprisoned Palestinians, punctuated in people’s minds by last year’s massacre of 9 humanitarian aid activists—murdered at sea in cold blood—their only weapons of defense: deck chairs and cucumber knives.

Two years ago, according to Zogby, 71 percent of Americans held a favorable opinion of Israelis; by March 2010, 65 percent did. A plurality, 40 percent versus 34 percent, believe Israel’s illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories are wrong.

Even before the killings on the Mavi Marmara aid flotilla and the recent uprisings across the Middle East that have popularly humanized Arabs as democracy- and freedom-seeking people, 84 percent believed the Palestinians deserved equal rights, 67 percent supported a Palestinian state.

When Israel bombed 1.5 million trapped Gazans on the eve of Obama’s 2009 inauguration, killing more than 1,400 Palestinians (almost all civilians; 13 Israelis died, 9 were soldiers), Americans winced. Forty-four percent supported the assault, versus 41 percent who opposed it, according to Rasmussen. Ordinary Democrats—unlike their party’s leadership—were appalled, only 31 percent could muster any support for it.

But, as always, polls don’t tell the whole story. These last months, the U.S. city with the greatest concentration of Jews and Arabs living side-by-side, New York, has been host to literally dozens of events where hundreds of people have turned out each time to learn about and advocate Palestine solidarity.

Whether listening to Salon.com’s Glenn Greenwald exposing the legal myths about Israel, Professor Rashid Khalidi recounting the tales of Israel’s terrorist birth pangs or Omar Barghouti making an ironclad case for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of the apartheid state, crowds have been large and defenders of Israel have been cowed and mostly passive.

These rooms, it should be noted, are almost always at least half Jewish. Not surprising, as Peter Beinart’s excellent article exposed last year that:

For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism’s door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead.

Even the Zionist J Street poll shows 53 percent of American Jews are not at all bothered by open criticisms of Israel by other Jews.

Opinions have changed drastically. In the late 1980s, when I began speaking on Palestine in NYC, universities like NYU would insist on metal detectors at the door to deter kooks who called in death threats. Small clutches of students would attend meetings, but at least half the room would rise up in protest at any acknowledgment of the indisputable facts of Israel’s ethnic cleansing. Zionists marched through the room a couple of times waving the Israeli flag and singing their anthem, Hatikva, The Hope.

To be an anti-Zionist in the U.S. in those years, or simply a vocal critic of its policies, was to be among a tiny minority, usually made up of socialists.

Most Americans today remain profoundly confused about the history and politics of Israel-Palestine, but they are increasingly sympathetic to Palestinians’ demands and rights.

One clear example was seen these last two weeks. It’s Gay Pride month and in New York each of the city’s boroughs hosts its own parade, culminating in Manhattan’s megabash of hundreds of thousands of revelers marching toward the Stonewall Inn where the modern movement was born in a riot. For the first time ever, pro-Palestine contingents marched in the NYC parades in response to Israel’s attempt to sell itself as a gay paradise, known as “pinkwashing,” as well as the Manhattan LGBT Center’s ban on Palestine solidarity organizing.

Thousands of people cheered the Queers Against Israeli Apartheid contingent at both the Brooklyn and Queens Gay Pride parades over the past two weekends. Chants of “We’re here, we’re queer, and we support Palestine!” were met with fist pumps, nods and smiles of agreement and sympathetic curiosity.

This is expressive of a significant ideological shift taking place across the country. Apartheid Israel is, finally, losing hearts and minds in the nation that funds its power in return for political and military services no other Middle Eastern state can reliably supply.

That said, we should not equate Israel’s growing unpopularity in the States with either a shift in U.S. policy or a relaxation of the virulent attacks on critics of Israel. U.S. policy remains fiercely pro-Zionist and billions continue to flow, despite minor clashes over semantics when Obama recently uttered what amounts to a repetition of long-held policy positions.

The attempt to deny playwright Tony Kushner his honorary degree at CUNY—and the massive response that overturned that denial—provides a glimpse of battles to come.

Israel has only just begun to respond to the growing BDS movement and they are likely to ratchet up the rhetoric, lies and slanderous attacks on all of its critics. The pinkwashing campaign is only one part of a multimillion dollar effort to win back American progressives.

Our side will need to rise to the ideological and organizational challenges of a well-funded campaign that has U.S. government support, including a police state approach to spying on and interrupting constitutionally protected activities.

The best place for folks who want to prepare themselves for the Zionists’ inevitable attacks is at Socialism 2011: Revolution in the Air, July 1–4 in Chicago, where electronicintifada.net’s Ali Abunimah, Omar Barghouti, Glenn Greenwald and many others, myself included, will be taking on the myths of Zionism and helping to arm this new generation of solidarity activists with the knowledge and organizational wherewithal to take the next steps.

No to “Pinkwashing” Israeli Apartheid

As a member of the NY chapter of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN), I helped pen the statement being circulated, below, against the Jewish National Fund’s (JNF) attempt to provide a progressive veneer for their racist actions. Please read this brief statement and click on the link to sign it, if you agree. A protest is being organized in NYC for this Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010.

No to JNF’s Pinkwashing of

Israeli Apartheid

Statement of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN)

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

As lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and straight activists and scholars, we condemn the Jewish National Fund’s launch of a new LGBT committee in New York City on December 9, 2010, for what it is: an attempt to “pinkwash” the JNF’s central role in acquiring Palestinian land on which to build the Israeli apartheid state.Most immediately, this campaign is designed to cover up the ugly fact that Palestinians, with few exceptions, are effectively barred from living on 93 % of land in 1948 Palestine (“Israel”). That 93% is land controlled by the Israel Land Authority – a government body in turn controlled by a council on which the JNF holds just under half of the seats. The JNF’s LGBT committee is also part of a well-orchestrated campaign to deflect growing international outrage over Israel’s six decade-long occupation of Palestine, including its continued denial of basic human rights to the indigenous population, the brutal siege of Gaza, and the recent massacre of humanitarian aid activists on the Gaza Freedom flotilla. 

This campaign is the latest addition to the Israeli state’s concerted efforts to portray Israel as a gay tourist destination based on its tolerance for diversity – despite the entire Israeli social fabric being woven to exclude and erase Palestinian culture, livelihood and lives. This includes the culture and history of LGBT Palestinians – who often face increased harassment at checkpoints from Israeli soldiers, due to their sexual identity. Clearly, any gains made by Jewish LGBT Israelis are not shared by Palestinians.

We stand in support of both LGBT rights and an end to Israeli apartheid. We therefore condemn the JNF’s tokenizing of the long fought for rights of LGBT communities for the purposes of erasing the ongoing struggle for the rights of Palestinians.

Click here to sign: http://www.ijsn.net/643/

Reading & Discussion – Gaza In Crisis: Reflections on Israel’s War Against the Palestinians, by  Ilan Pappé

Friday, December 10th, 7pm–Acclaimed Israeli New Historian

At Alwan for the Arts
Free and open to the public 

Described by a UN fact-finding mission as “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate, and terrorize a civilian population,” Israel’s Operation Cast Lead thrust the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip into the center of the debate about the Israel/Palestine conflict. Ilan Pappé surveys the fallout from Israel’s conduct in Gaza and places it in the context of Israel’s longstanding occupation of Palestine.

Ilan Pappé is professor of history at the University of Exeter in the UK, where he is also co-director of the Exeter Center for Ethno-Political Studies, and director of the Palestine Studies Centre. He is author of the bestselling The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oneworld), A History of Modern Palestine (Cambridge), The Israel/Palestine Question (Routledge), and is a long-time political activist.

“Ilan Pappé is Israel’s bravest, most principled, most incisive historian.” —John Pilger